Too Odd (Not) to Be True? A Reply to Olsson

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (4):539-563 (2002)
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Corroborating Testimony, Probability and Surprise’, Erik J. Olsson ascribes to L. Jonathan Cohen the claims that if two witnesses provide us with the same information, then the less probable the information is, the more confident we may be that the information is true (C), and the stronger the information is corroborated (C*). We question whether Cohen intends anything like claims (C) and (C*). Furthermore, he discusses the concurrence of witness reports within a context of independent witnesses, whereas the witnesses in Olsson's model are not independent in the standard sense. We argue that there is much more than, in Olsson's words, ‘a grain of truth’ to claim (C), both on his own characterization as well as on Cohen's characterization of the witnesses. We present an analysis for independent witnesses in the contexts of decision-making under risk and decision-making under uncertainty and generalize the model for n witnesses. As to claim (C*), Olsson's argument is contingent on the choice of a particular measure of corroboration and is not robust in the face of alternative measures. Finally, we delimit the set of cases to which Olsson's model is applicable. 1 Claim (C) examined for Olsson's characterization of the relationship between the witnesses 2 Claim (C) examined for two or more independent witnesses 3 Robustness and multiple measures of corroboration 4 Discussion.



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Author Profiles

Stephan Hartmann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Branden Fitelson
Northeastern University
Luc Bovens
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Citations of this work

Weak Bayesian coherentism.Michael Huemer - 2007 - Synthese 157 (3):337-346.
Explaining the limits of Olsson's impossibility result.Gregory Wheeler - 2012 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 50 (1):136-150.
The Impossibility of Coherence.Erik J. Olsson - 2005 - Erkenntnis 63 (3):387-412.

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Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
The Structure of Empirical Knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
The Probable and the Provable.Laurence Jonathan Cohen - 1977 - Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press.
Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Mind 93 (371):450-455.

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